Tragedy comes in different packages.
It’s a suicide bomber at a Parisian concert hall. It’s a phone call that dad has brain damage from a slip on the linoleum. It’s a cursory glance at the Bible instead of a long drink. It’s an alcoholic beverage or a frosted sugar cookie or one more click on the computer even though you vowed to stop and “just do today” in God’s grace. It’s realizing that you got something really, really wrong.
For Job, tragedy was a gaggle of breathless messengers who delivered the worst news of his life. I wouldn’t ever be able to hear running feet the same way again if I had been him.
His life had been idyllic, blessed by the hand of God for being obedient. And yet, in his sovereignty, God destroyed his life: his children, his material wealth, his personal wellness.
Friends came, sat in silence for an eternal seven days before offering their opinions on what and why and how. Job cried and didn’t understand. He questions God, but there is a key that offers biblical insight into how we are to handle tragedy. In light of the horrific terrorism that has swept France this past weekend, I see a stark truth that has been sitting quietly in my mind.
Yes, tragedy struck Job hard. People died. His joy was stolen, forcibly ripped for no reason. The places where feasts had been held and existence celebrated had become crypts of the past, monuments to meaningless disaster. His life had been unraveled into a facetious joke that didn’t make sense in light of his conduct and what God had done in the past.
In all of his tears and questions, though, Job never questioned God’s character. He never asked if God was still reigning or if God had become evil. God hadn’t and hasn’t changed just because of valleys of death. God’s character has not been compromised; he is still sovereign, still the Lord of plan and decree. God is still good, even though massacre and death are sweeping the news. You may ask how I can say that, and I don’t say it pithily or lightly. This is grave. This is hard.
God is still in control. God is still sitting on his throne, even amidst the greatest of disasters. Look at what was happening in Isaiah’s world when he saw his vision in chapter 6: God was not pacing, but seated, in control. Look at what is happening with our baguette-eating brothers and sisters in their dark night of soul. God is not pacing up in heaven, furrowed brow, wondering why this all happened and what the final answer is.
In his transcendence, honestly, he doesn’t even owe us one, because he is God. And we may never know why ISIS is ISIS and why people have been murdered in a major city. But in the meantime, let us sit in silence and pray. May we intercede, because our mighty God is also a God who dwells with the lowly and responds to the cries of his people. He heals. He gives life and hope, and let us not lose sight of that amidst our questioning of recent world events.
Let us mourn with those who mourn, but may we not stay there or be led into a disillusioned state of cynicism, cold prayer, and soft knees.